If you’ve ever used a face- or body-scrubbing product, it’s likely that it contained plastic microbeads. These microbeads work to slough away dead skin, but just like other plastic products they represent an environmental hazard. For this reason, efforts are being made in New York to ban this plastic pollution from products.
Microbeads are tiny spherical beads made out of polyethylene or polypropylene ranging in size from 0.004mm to 1.24mm. They can be found in products including Clearasil, Clean & Clear, L’Oreal and Neutrogena exfoliating face and body washes as well as some toothpastes. A study estimates that nearly 19 tons of microbeads are potentially discharged into the wastewater stream of the State of New York alone each year.
The problem with these microbeads is that they are just washed down the drain. Because they are so small and buoyant, many escape capture by wastewater treatment plants, which tend to filter water through screens that have holes bigger than the microbeads.